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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Dickens Rises With “The Dark Knight” In Gotham City

The most anticipated film of 2012 opened up this past July and is still stunning audiences, staying at the top spot of the box office this summer! Raking in about $834 million, the film is now the 30th most lucrative production of all time. The Dark Knight Rises is the compelling conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman series. The three films he created changed the face of blockbuster filmmaking and breathed a brand new life into how superhero films and scripts are produced. Nolan’s world of Batman is real, gritty and relatable and not at all comes off cartoonish like Schumacher’s Batman & Robin. Don’t get me wrong, but when George Clooney donned the Batman suit—sure, Clooney was handsome, fresh-faced and debonair in a Cary Grant sort of comic-book way, but the costume came off ridiculously like a caricature, complete with a jockstrap and nipples. The nipples alone were distracting!

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

Image Credit: Warner Brothers

The film is set eight years after The Dark Knight and finds Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) struggling with his new status as a hunted vigilante and a recluse in his mansion after as his alter ego Batman vanished into the night, turning from a hero to a fugitive for the death of D.A Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). Assuming blame, Batman sacrifices everything along with Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) who believed their lie was for the greater good and would suppress criminal activity after the Dent Act, an anti-crime law took place. However, Bruce Wayne and Batman come into contact with a clever cat burglar by the name of Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), also known as the infamous, Catwoman but an even more dangerous masked terrorist known as Bane (Tom Hardy) has his own plans for the city and hopes to get rid of Batman. Viewers ponder, if the masked crusader wears the cape again and leaves his “Howard Hughes” lifestyle, could he really be a match for Bane?

As a fan of this particular franchise, I believe the films Nolan produced are the best of any superhero series ever made and I say that with the utmost admiration. They are all full of depth and explore darkness with its direction, cinematography and themes, and have intricately built characters that are molded from the consequences and characters in the first two films. With those foundations carefully crafted, Nolan was able to deliver exactly what was promised to audiences and fans in terms of quality film-making. He stretches the depths of what is actually possible in a superhero film and explored the psyche of evil, then diving into the sociological ramifications in the conclusion. Nolan has a great knack for creating stories audiences can relate to. His three films give a typical summer blockbuster feel packed with explosive action, innovative gadgets and technology, while maintaining strong thought-provoking dialogue, which gives a sense of thrill on one hand; and on the other hand, this film illustrates a depleted and recession ravaged Gotham City full of terrorists, Wall Street type shenanigans, government incompetence and manipulation. In some ways, it is reflection of our own, and the unplesantries we find without our society’s flaws and decay.

We all know that in terms of possessing super-human powers, Batman is in a class of his own and is just another man under the suit, but still proves how even a common man can rise to the occasion without fear and fight for what is right. We see it everyday with law enforcement officers, firefighters, doctors to illustrate a few. Batman isn’t really a vigilante in the literal sense, but rather a symbol of “rising” in times of despair. Before a hero can rise, he must suffer, he must fall and Batman did fall but his actions have always essentially been about morals and heart; what is right. Nolan created a Batman who thinks about the people and that shows his moral fiber. The Dark Knight Rises gives a compelling humanization of the Batman legend and is a reflection on our grim modern society but doesn’t shove it down our throats. It’s a subtle look and entertaining to say the least.

Further on a personal note, I must confess, I was a huge fan of Charles Dickens! My father was one of those dads that would come home occasionally with a book for me and tell me “that reading develops the mind and imagination.” I liked everything about the books he gave me–whether they’d be novels or comic books, pop-up books, whatever they were, I’d still read them. I always loved how books were able to take you on an adventure and learn about life outside of those four walls. There was a stage as a child where I was extremely fond of Charles Dickens. Every elementary school book report was on a Dickens novel, my favorite reports being: Great Expectations, Nicholas Nickleby, Oliver Twist and of course, A Tale of Two Cities. I even did a report on the author himself but when I discovered he had died many years ago, a part of me was in disbelief–mind you, I was ten at the time.

When I watched The Dark Knight Rises last week, I was glowing in front of the screen with the realization that this film was in fact a modern retelling of A Tale of Two Cities. Set in a world post September 11, complete with climate from Occupy Wallstreet, and grim people’s courts, the film touched on the classic novel’s plot and themes. Both The Dark Knight Rises and A Tale of Two Cities tell the stories of orphans; Bruce Wayne and Sydney Carton. Both leads are individuals who are prepared to pay the ultimate price for their cities through trials and tribulations. They express how much faith they have in their cities and in the people but end up struggling with the issues of justice in their world, societal oppression and poverty. Class warfare plays a big part in the division of classes in both stories, between the rich and the poor. Through circumstances and past consequences seen in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, this division becomes an issue in Gotham City and creates an ever-widening gap, much like in our own world with tensions rising and breaking people apart based on differences.

A Tale Of Two Citiesis based in the context of the history of the French Revolution and in some sense, you see a vengeful populist uprising, as a blood-thirsty mob clamors for the rich who have exploited and left them to starve in a recession. Like the novel, the residents of Gotham drag the rich out of their homes and put them on trial in a kangaroo court, leaving little room to appeal since the only verdict handed out was “exile” or “death by exile”. At one point in the film, Commissioner Gordon recites a line from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities and has got to be the most direct reference to the Dickens classic. Though it may not be memorable like the famous opening passage, the novel’s less well-known lines make a great impact to the overall conclusion of this Batman tale.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

I will not say how the line works itself into the scene (no intention to be a spoiler) but it was most befitting and very appropriate to the overall films. In some sense, it felt like it summed up everything these films were about. Gordon’s selection of this passage is quite apt considering content. If you have read A Tale of Two Cities but haven’t seen The Dark Knight Rises as yet, you might try and piece it together and maybe even figure it out on your own (can’t say that‘s my fault!). The film and book geek in me literally teared up and at one point, began smiling at the reference (did I also mention how I was the only person in the theater who clapped at the end of the film?).

There are quite a number of orphans in this film and that alone evokes another Dickens novel, Oliver Twist; from the likes of Detective John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a former orphan at an all-boys home, to the mysterious arches of Selina Kyle and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard). Certain characters who shall not be named portray certain traits of the character of Nancy, who cared a great deal for Oliver Twist and was fiercely protective, exhibiting parental behavior towards the orphan. The interesting aspect of these characters is that they are on two separate ends of the moral spectrum. The film never offers a glimpse of Selina Kyle’s past but she resembles the Artful Dodger in some aspects as both characters have been taught by their impoverished city to work for themselves and develop their skills in order to survive and sees the Dodger at one point letting Oliver go on trial for theft.

I will admit, I was pretty surprised to see how Dickens made it into a Batman film of all films but it was admirable to see how Nolan could interject such a classic. In our modern culture, the audiences are so use to new age authors and at times, have forgotten the classics but to see how Christopher Nolan and his brother, co-writer Jonathan used Dickens’ book as clear inspiration for them telling Batman’s story is almost, poetic and beautiful.

So where does the Batman franchise go after this? Well, it seems like the best bet and safest one is simply no where. I hate it too because I would love to see Christopher Nolan do this again but the Batman chapter is closed and the recent tragic events have cast a shadow on such films. Warner Brothers has no other deal right now with the director as far as creating further films go and for another director and screenwriter to provide a similar interpretation is hard. The Superman franchise in the late 70s suffered when Richard Donner and the producers at Warner Brothers developed irreconcilable differences and signed Richard Lester to finish the sequel to Superman. It proves that lightning rarely strikes twice in Hollywood, so if studios have to find a director and screenwriter to fill in Nolan’s shoes—well, those will be big shoes!

Sure the film can go somewhere, especially since the ending provided further insight into the famed Batman mythology but it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie. One of the few options I see would be to start from scratch and head into a new direction. It’s very risky and audiences have been hesitant to such behavior from studios, especially since Sony Pictures took only five years between Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, manned by Tobey Maguire to create a fresh look to the franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man.

Christopher Nolan definitely set a new tone and precedant to the overall superhero creation on screen. His films are a pure and genuine model for what story and setting should be as well as, creating a human touch to the whole aspect of these legends we’ve read in comic books. Christopher Nolan crafted a vision that is completely unlike anything audiences have seen and achieved amazing results. His fingerprint will next be seen in the upcoming DC film, Man of Steel directed by Zack Snyder. Nolan produced and co-wrote the screenplay with his brother, Jonathan along with his Dark Knight partner, David S. Goyer.

The Dark Knight Rises is now playing in theaters nationwide. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are available on DVD and Blu/Ray.


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